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Mental Preparation
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What I wish I had known before my first World Championships

Making it to the World Championships is a huge achievement. Only the best of the best qualify, and it’s a huge commitment of time and finances to train and travel, not to mention a huge emotional investment.

It’s also an incredibly daunting experience – big stage, high stakes. The first time on that stage can be very scary when you’re not quite sure what to expect – no matter how much you train, there is nothing that can compare to the world stage – it’s different to the Oireachtas or Nationals. We asked some of the most experienced competitors what they wish they had known at their first Oireachtas Rince Na Cruinne, and they shared their advice in the hopes that it helps those who are new to the big stage.

Learn from the experience

I wish I had known to watch more of the top dancers in my competition on the day. I eventually started watching those dancers and studying what they did to become champions which pushed me to work harder towards my goals. – Lexa Hickey, TCRG An Clar School – competed at 9 World Championships for the Broesler School

If I had the opportunity to go back to my very first Worlds in 2010, I wish I had known, or more so, understood the scale of the Championships – the size of the stage, the massive number of people that attend and the incredible standard of dancing. Coming from the most isolated capital city in the world, Perth, Western Australia, it was very overwhelming! – Dara McAleer, age 18, Keady/Upton – competed at 6 World Championships (competing at her 7th this year)

I wish I had understood the level of prestige that the Worlds carries, and with that, how talented the competition is. My first Worlds was only my 3rd “major championship” and I did not understand how high the standard of dancing was at these championships. Looking back on it now, I don’t think I properly trained for the Worlds at all and I’m amazed I still placed decently (no recall but not far off). It was an eye-opening experience and from that Worlds was when I really changed my attitude and work ethic. I started to approach dance differently, allowing more time for practice and really taking more note of what my teachers were saying to me. – Jason Hays, age 24, McTeggart Texas – competed at 11 World Championships, two time World Champion

The one thing I wish I had known is that results aren’t the only thing that matters. Having fun while dancing is the most important thing and if you if stress out about results too much, you’re I’ll miss out on so much. Have fun with your friends and enjoy the little things. – Owen Luebbers, age 17, Broesler – competed at 6 World Championships (competing at his 7th this year)

Preparation is everything

Walking onto the World stage waiting to begin your dance never gets easier or less overwhelming. However, over the years, I have learned to turn those nerves into excitement and adrenaline. When the musicians start playing, I embrace those immense feelings and turn them into positive energy. By the time the music count hits eight-two-three, I’m ready to release that energy into my dancing for a strong first impression. I wish I had known how to channel that energy before my first Worlds. – Gabriella Wood, age 23, Doherty Petri – competed at 11 World Championships, two time World Champion

I wish I had known how detrimental a short break in our incredibly hot Australian summer would have been to my fitness. – Dara McAleer

Own the stage

I wish I had known more about stage presence and how to look like I own the stage. I was very shy looking when I danced and I held back. As I got older I realized how important it is to go out there and act like you are number one even if you’re not. You have to dance as if a for sale sign is taped on your forehead. If you believe you’re the best everyone will believe it too! – Sarah Oldam, age 20, Heritage Irish Dance Company – competed at 9 World Championships (competing at her 10th this year)

There are three things I can think of that I wish I knew before I walked onstage. First would be don’t underestimate the size of the stage. It’s a lot bigger than you think and you have to make good use of that stage. The second would be to make sure all the judges see you! This goes right with using the stage. Your goal is for those judges to look at you and only you. And the last thing I would say is, of course, have fun. Don’t let your nerves get the better of you. You’ve put in all the hours you could and now it’s your time to shine. Remember we love to dance and it’s that love that got you to the big stage! – Joseph Riley, age 25, Heritage Irish Dance Company – competed at 7 World Championships (competing at his 8th this year)

Tan your legs!

I wish I knew I had to tan my legs! At my first worlds I never in my life tanned my legs before. When I got off the stage after my first round my teachers grabbed me, immediately bought tanner and started tanning my legs in between rounds. I’ll never forget that moment! – Sarah Oldam (ed note: thanks for the chuckle Sarah!)

Have you danced solos at multiple World Championships? What do you wish you had known at your first Worlds? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Milton Baar, Media Images
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